To feel or not to feel? A confused, over emotional mess by me
If I were to think back to the very beginning of this project, getting over my fears of somehow becoming too invested with what I wanted to acheive was the first obstacle I needed to overcome. While this may seem superfluous to other filmmakers, my grandparents have always been passionate about creating home videos and recording memories of us growing up. FIlming, be that as a hobby or as a career, has therefore always been important for me. With this first film that I would create and hopefully proudly show to them later, trying to find the perfect balance between being too invested emotionally and not enough was a difficult process. I knew I wanted to work with something I knew about, something I recognized, and something where I myself could relate to. I also wanted to leave a piece of myself with this project, but thinking about putting myself out there, openly asking for feedback and critiques on something I attached too much meaning upon made me into a nervous mess.
There is also the aspect that this is my final year of my Social Anthropology undergraduate degree, and from the open day I attended before even enrolling at this university, I knew of this module, and of the final project that I could produce in a few years time.
So here we were, debating whether or not to be fully emotionally vulnerable, and knowing I wanted to use this project as a final hurrah to my undergraduate days.
I finally gathered that it's all well and good to feel so emotional about this final project, but unless I actually produce something of ethnographic and anthropological quality, then I wouldn’t be paying a proper homage to my years of study.
This was the first reflective bone I had to pick with myself.
The choice of subject
I therefore concluded that working on a subject that hits close to home, and viewing it through an anthropological perspective would be the best course of action I could take. I also knew that I wanted to focus on the theme of community. I was thinking primarily of looking at a university society, to see what ties are created in a collective context.
During the general elections in December 2019, I accompanied my housemate to go vote as I was interested in how voting works in the UK. We went to the Mormon church and community center just down the road to do so, as they were held there for our area. I was thoroughly surprised to see that they had a basketball court and a kitchen in their church. The only churches I attended when I was younger were the big, cold and drafty ones. I wanted to know more about the warm atmosphere I felt, about what they do for the community, and how people participate. I was debating whether or not to go with this subject while I went home for winter break.
But once back at home I spent a lot of time with my family, and learned that my grandfather had recently become co-president of the video club in my town. And suddenly it hit me. While I knew nothing of the Mormon religion, I know a lot about the intricacies of a small, rural community and the ties we make. I knew of filmmaking, as I’d been studying it for the past term in preparation for this project, and I knew the members of the club very well. Not only would doing a project on filmmakers provide an interesting introspection for both myself and the viewers, but being so comfortable with the community meant I would be able to integrate the video club without disturbing too much of their usual routine. I would also be able to have more heartfelt conversations with the members, as they knew me and were comfortable with me interviewing them.
By choosing to go home and film a club and the members I’ve known for years, on the island where I was born, I found a way to satisfy my need of providing a piece of myself with this project. By applying my anthropological training to this project, and critical viewing the footage during the editing process, I also managed to ‘kill my darlings’ and focus on the ethnographic quality of the material I collected during the few days I went back home.
A Doubt and ITS resolution
While I was at home, I talked about my project idea with my grandfather, asking him for permission to come and film. He was more than happy to help out with this project, and already thinking about how best to organise ourselves. I knew I couldn’t go home every weekend, so we would need to have all the footage filmed during one trip back home. During the reading week of the next term seemed like the best option. However, we came across an obstacle: the main activity period of the club, and of the island in general, is during the summer months when tourists come and amplify the population tenfold. There would be no main event to build up to, the members would not be focussing on one specific project during this time. Filming them during this time would just be filming their usual routine.
We were faced with a lack of narrative.
I went back to university, slightly dejected that this project cannot go forth, as I was truly motivated for this. However I couldn’t let the idea go, and continued to focus on ways to make it work. I finally figured that presenting the club, what they do and who they are, was so worthwhile that a narrative would emerge by itself.
And I am very happy that one did indeed come forth. Not only were we playing around with the idea of taking their new drone for a run while I was home for the filming, but the themes the gentlemen of the club spoke of interlinked with what each other were saying, and building this narrative was so much easier than expected. By framing the club members’ interviews in between our drone footage, both from the club’s production at the beginning, and the final segment where myself and the presidents took it out I was able to provide a full circle moment encompassing the entrance into the club and leaving it.